End of October–more experiments of the low salt variety!

As those of you who read this blog know, my husband was unwell at the start of the month… among the prescriptions is eating with less salt. We do this anyhow, but still… it is not easy to measure up, even when you make things from scratch. In any event, it has been an interesting journey! Last night, for instance, I had got a very lean pork steak from the butcher–with fennel seed, vegetable ragout and potatoes and lots of herbs a very happy husband left the dinner table! 🙂
Seriously, it is amazing how much taste you could get by just finely chopping leeks, onions, swede and carrots and cooking them with just a spoonful of hot water, olive oil and fennel seed and herbs such as marjoram, tarragon and oregano.
So, for you all…
serves 1
1 lean pork steak, about 150g in weight;
about 100 g chopped mixed veg, i.e. onions, leeks, swede and potato (i.e. what you’d use for veg stock!)
1 tsp fennel seed
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp marjoram, 1/2 tsp tarragon, a pinch of oregano
1 clove of garlic, crushed

Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the fennel seed; when it starts to brown add the garlic and the minced vegetables along with a tbsp of water; cover and let it sweat for about 10min til the veg starts to go pearly. Add the pork steak along with the herbs and turn a few times until it starts to cook and is well coated with the seasonings; cover, lower to a medium/low heat and leave it to cook until well done (very well, uncooked pork is truly dangerous!!), about 35min.
Serve on top of tatties (I steamed them).


The Geeks are out in town again–thanks to a fabulous invitation!

October has been a busy and complicated month… what with hubby being convalescing and work, not a lot of time was free for blogging and also for getting together with my fantastic friends, Blythe and Rose and our other fellow Geeks! Total Food Geeks Edinburgh had a memorable open night on 16 October: I could not go, but by all accounts it was great fun. Marie and Susan at Hula Juice Bar were their usual lovely hostesses, so I was pleased to hear accounts of the night on our communal blog!
This week, it felt just about time for another get together… Hubby is well now and back at work, so on Wednesday night I left work and wandered toward the West End: Total Food Geeks along with other fellow bloggers, such as Keep Calm and Fanny On, Edinblogger and Zurika, were invited to taste the new menu at One Square! Yes, you heard me right–the newly re-opened (after extensive renovations) restaurant at the Sheraton on Festival Square. We were greeted by Emma and Andrew, the latter being the General manager of the hotel, for a glass of sloe gin and then we proceeded to the breakfast bar area, which was especially open for us, for a session of canape’ making, followed by drinks–gin and tonic this time, and lovely it was even for someone like me who is not madly in love with the stuff! It was here that we met our magician for the night–Craig, thje head chef guided us in making our own canapes. http://t.co/aM0wIKxfvA
Even a vegan like me got into it–next time my folks are around, I shall surprise them with some sushi! I was also surprised to find vegan canapes… avocado salad and gaszpacho, wow! http://t.co/h0eBlfu3Lh
We then moved to the dining table and that is where the magic really happened! I can only speak for the vegan options… but they were marvellous, made expressly for me–for which I am truly grateful, I am seldom so well-fed and treated so kindly! A starter of beetroot terrine (http://t.co/Qpp704BYJk) was followed by pumpkin soup topped with leeks (here you are: http://t.co/BYgAfs9bYa). The terrine was accompanied by beet crisps and salad, and was really tasty. The soup was delicate and hearty and the leeks gave it a nice punch. The main courses followed… chickpea burger with curly fries (here you go: https://twitter.com/AriAround/status/527570028078850049/photo/1) and also a tempeh burger, which was amazing, served with spinach and vegetables (see here: https://twitter.com/AriAround/status/527578244229644289/photo/1). Vraig came often outside to ask what we thought and was also happy to answer questions. I found it interesting that he does not use gram flour as a densing agent for the burger, and instead prefer grated broccoli. The taste was delicious, so I shall try! 🙂
Puddings were also good… berry jelly and sorbet (https://twitter.com/AriAround/status/527570028078850049/photo/1) was followed by almond pannacotta on fruit soup… unfortunately I ate this before tacking a picture, sorry! 😉
Drinks were paired artfully to the meal… I especially enjoyed the cider (Thistly) which matched well the starter.
In all, I left One Square with a happy heart: this visit confirmed that there are some amazing chefs around who can feed vegans really well, with art and also kindness. It is truly encouraging–now I know that next time I visit this restaurant, which is going to be soon, I can only ask when I am booking.
Truly good things are going on in Festival Square! Thanks Craig, Emma and Andrew and all the staff for welcoming us Geeks and especially this vegan. And vegans in Edinburgh–for a tasty meal in truly elegant surrondings I recommend One Square. Together with Cafe St Honore’s wonderful Neil, Craig is bound to become a favourite of the vegan tribes if I have any part in it!

Autumn is here… and I experiment…

The leaves are yellowing and down, and I have to say that the trees in Holyrood Park are breathtakingly beautiful now that their colours range from green to orange to rusty yellow. For reasons to do with my hubby’s health (not to worry–he’s had a scare, and me too, but is now on the road to recovery and doing well) I have been working from home a lot (with profit, which is really a good feeling as I thought I would be distracted!) and have had the chance to take in the surroundings of Arthur’s Seat from one side, of Figgate park from another and of Portobello beach in the distance. All good for the soul, I must say!
My shared garden continues to bring gifts–the radishes are getting fatter and so the cabbage, a couple of which are nearing picking time! 🙂
Most of all, because of hubby’s convalescence, I have been exploring the joys of low salt cooking. Now, you will say, ‘you cook without salt most of the time anyhow’ but still, sometimes this stuff is hidden in apparently harmless condiments… and also it feels that there are things that you can’t simply cook without! 🙂 this is far from the truth of course!
So, last weekend saw me making chicken casserole with tomato passata, onions, garlic and lots of oregano and basil and no salt! Hubby appreciated it immensely… and yesterday, I cooked him pork chops on the griddle pan without fat and salt… just a sprinkle of fennel seed, as nonna Lina (the grannie of my cousins Francesca and Massimiliano) used to do on her grill outside the kitchen in the old house in Via della Stazione in Oriolo Romano. Brought back happy memories… and was served with colcannon mash cooked with leeks, a tbsp or 2 of milk, no butter or oil and a pinch of mixed herbs. Again, no salt or fat in sight.
This was a variation on this recipe: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/4832/pork-with-swede-colcannon
I just substituted leeks for the cabbage and mixed swede with parsnips, plus cooked the chop with fennel seed, but hubby liked it a lot.
As for the chicken casserole, well… last rays of summer IMHO, due to the tomatoes! 🙂
For one
2 chicken drumsticks
300ml tomato passata
1 small onion
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp each of dried oregano and basil
half tbsp vinegar
a handful of pitted olives
1 small pepper torn in strips

In a saucepan heat the passata on a medium heat, then add the onion, garlic and the pepper strips and simmer for 5/6 min, then add the chicken drumsticks and the olives. Adjust the herbs–you may need a tiny bit more oregano especially–lower the heat slightly and leave to simmer for 30min til the chicken is cooked and tender. Up the heat, add the vinegar and let it boil off. Serve with rice or bread or both!
Tomorrow we’re expecting hubby’s Mother… plan is making Cullen Skink, to a lady from Banff… erm… either that or chowder, which may, after all be safer… plus homemade bread and pineapple upside down cake… wish me luck! Coffee break over…